Greg Wonder, a 2010 graduate of the New England School of Communications has been hard at work over the past 3 years working on the documentary Dennis Viollet – A United Man which was recently finished. Wonder took some time out of his busy video production schedule in Los Angeles to talk with the NESCom Blog to talk about the project and its plans for the future.
NESCom Blog: Bring us up to date on what you’re doing in Los Angeles and how you became involved with Dennis Viollet – A United Man?
Wonder: I’m based out of Los Angeles and as far as entertainment employment goes, this is really the best place for it. My work consists of many things like writing, directing and producing but my day to day job is really as a cinematographer, video editor, and colorist. Editing/color are the things I end up doing most since there’s far more demand for it. I am a freelance contractor but the bulk of my work comes from the same company and we work on a variety of different things from fashion/makeup brands to beverage companies.
I became involved in the project through simple networking. Rachel Viollet (the film’s director/producer) and I met through mutual friends when we were both new to LA and she mentioned that she wanted to make this documentary about her father. She liked my work and the two of us got along really well so she brought me on as the DP, editor, and co-producer.
NESCom Blog: So who is Dennis Viollet and what is his story?
Wonder: Dennis Viollet – A United Man is a documentary about a Manchester United legend who played back in the 50’s and 60’s. He’s one of the best players to ever come through the club and actually still holds the record for most goals in a season. After his professional career in England he came to the United States and played a huge roll in popularizing the game over here.
NESCom Blog: With a subject that spent time in both England and America, did you have to shoot in both countries?
Wonder: The first thing we shot was a couple of short interviews in LA of Rachel and the consulting producer Kim Waltrip (producer Hit & Run) for an indiegogo campaign. The campaign raised enough money for Rachel and I to travel to England for a week and shoot our first batch of interviews. We spoke to men like Denis Law and Sir Alex Ferguson who are legends in the sport which was pretty amazing. After England, we traveled to Jacksonville, FL which is where Dennis spent the second half of his life, and shot the remaining interviews for the film. We shot Rachel’s interview in LA and also was able to grab one with the global ambassador for Man U as he was passing through town on business.
NESCom Blog: How did the film challenge you as DP/Editor?
Wonder: The creative process of editing a documentary is quite a challenge because there is no script. You create an outline of the general story you want to tell but it largely comes down to sitting in the booth and piecing together a story with the available soundbites and presenting them in a way that makes sense and is compelling. We didn’t want to rely on voice over to tell the story, but rather tell it completely through the interviews so I spent a lot of time sifting through hours of footage to find the little soundbites that would work well together. Rachel also transcribed every interview, which was helpful because she could read through them and offer suggestions for what might work well in a particular section or pick out pieces I may have overlooked.
NESCom Blog: Tell us about the film’s debut in LA and the plans for future screenings/festivals/awards?
Wonder: We screened the film at Raleigh Studios in Los Angeles and it was very well received. Seeing my work on the big screen was a great moment. It was definitely a personal milestone for me. We also screened it the following weekend in Jacksonville, where Dennis spent the latter half of his life, which was really cool since the story is so personal to the city. We have also been selected as the opening night film for the Manchester Film Festival in England on March 3rd which is exciting.
NESCom Blog: What did you learn in the process?
Wonder: I learned a LOT about soccer! Both about the game in general and it’s history in England and the United States. I also learned how to strip my kit down to the bare essentials. When you have to carry every piece of gear by yourself all over a foreign country, it pays to be selective.
NESCom Blog: How did your time at NESCom prepare you for what you do today?
Wonder: The biggest thing NESCom helped me prepare for was the incredible work load you encounter in the real world. I had at least one video project due every week (usually more), which takes up a lot of time if you want them to be any good. I can remember many nights at NESCom where I was the last person to leave the building and the first person back the following morning. In this business it’s not uncommon to work 12+ hour days, in fact I’ve worked over 20 hours straight before. And then if you’re interested in producing your own content it all has to be done after that or on your days off so you really have to learn to budget your time and put in the work.
NESCom also really helped when it comes to being a one-man-band. Between all my courses I was challenged to learn about many different aspects of production which has enabled me to handle just about any part of it. Obviously you want to work with a team and find the best people suited for each position, but budgets don’t always allow for that so you often end up having to do the jobs of about 4-5 different people. If you are able to handle these sorts of tasks it’s going to make you far more employable than your competition.